What is Shellac and why is there so much confusion around it?

One thing that most clients don’t know is that Shellac is not a type of service but a name of product created by company named CND (Creative Nail Design). CND created what they called “Power Polish” in May of 2010 and it took the industry by storm.

CND Shellac is a type of gel polish (also known as color gel) that perfectly mimics nail polish in its appearance. Some call it “hybrid” because it has solvents and pigments like nail polish and it has gel components (strength and the fact that it cures under UV). The revolutionary part was that the product applied almost like nail polish (richly pigmented and thin application) and it removed quite easily (less than ten minutes). At that time “gel polishes” existed already and were also called “soak-off color gels”. They did not soak off really well, though, taking about 20-30 minutes to remove, and they didn’t apply very thin (a slightly thicker coat was needed to achieve rich color). CND Shellac also didn’t need the nails to be “filed” for the product to bond, which was an additional benefit.

The product became so popular and similar products were later released. People started referring to other brands as “Shellac,” confusing CND’s product for the service.

CND Shellac remains a best seller in a gel polish category but there are many, many other gel polishes on the market. Examples include:

  • OPI- GelColor
  • Harmony- Gelish
  • IBD- Just Gel Polish
  • Essie- Nail Gel Polish
  • Nubar- Gelicure

It seems as if a new brand is born every day.

Overall gel polishes are highly pigmented gels, packaged in a nail special bottle, resembling traditional polish in viscosity. They are applied like polish and utilise base coat, color coat and top coat. Some companies have 1-step gel polishes (just like 2 in 1 shampoos). Unlike nail polish, gel polish won’t dry on its own by evaporating the solvents, but will cure when the photoinitiators in the gel are exposed to UV or LED light (both produce UV rays, by the way, so don’t be fooled that one is “healthier” then the other). Usually gel polishes soak off in acetone or nail polish remover. Some easier to remove than others.

Seems easy, right? Well, there is more to the perfect manicure then it meets the eye. One has to know how to make the products cure properly–under-curing can cause allergies and over-curing can make the product difficult to remove and damage the nails–and they also have to be able to asses if gel polish is indeed recommended for a particular client. Not every person is a good candidate for a gel polish manicure. They also have to be able to communicate with clients to advise them of the pros and the cons of each type of product.

Choosing a reputable salon is important.

Why do we choose CND Shellac?

  • CND is a leader in a nail care industry and they are a very innovative company with a solid research team and legit marketing claims (I personally cannot stand companies who stoop to “scare tactics” or “half-truths”)
  • CND Shellac seems to be very consistent. All colours apply in a similar manner, and “feel” the same. They don’t seem to shrink, fade or streak. Other companies have good products as well and I keep testing new products on regular bases but they seem to have some good colors and some not so good formulas.
  • The removal of CND Shellac is a breeze. It soaks off like butter (when applied and cured properly). I can usually teach clients to do the removal themselves if they need to without damage to their nails (on vacations etc.)
  • Because of easy removal, there is less risk of nail damage.
  • CND Shellac is hypo-allergenic (when used as a full system). It doesn’t mean that it cannot cause irritation/allergy but it means that it contains ingredients that are less likely to cause side effects.
  • The removal of Shellac does not require filing the topcoat. Not a deal-breaker but the less filing we have to do- the better.
  • CND offers a fantastic education and product support.
  • The bottom line is…. I just trust CND.

Who is the best candidate for CND Shellac?

Shellac is designed for healthy nails that don’t have a tendency to peel. If Shellac is applied on flaky nail, it will bond to the flake but when that nail peels, guess what- it will peel the Shellac with it. Clients with excessively damaged nails are not good candidates either. Shellac bonds well to the healthy, dense top layer of the nail. If that layer is peeled off, Shellac will not stick as well. I compare it to hair. Bleached hair (open cuticle) does not “hold” onto color very well. The color washes out very quickly. Same with Shellac. The healthier the nail, the better the bond.

How is CND Shellac applied?

The nails are manicured just like you would before you would apply nail polish. The Shellac is applied in 4 thin coats just like you would polish (base coat, 2 x color and topcoat). Shellac base coat is first applied and cured for 5-10 seconds depending on which CND lamp you choose. The first Shellac color coat is applied in a thin coat and cured for 1-2 minutes (again, depending on the type of CND lamp used). The second coat of Shellac color coat is applied and again cured in the lamp. Then, Shellac top coat is applied and cured.  After the curing, there is a sticky layer left on the nails that has to be wiped off carefully not to leave stickiness on the skin (which over time can cause allergies/overexposure).  After that cuticle oil and hand cream are applied and voila! You are done! Nails are dry.

What is the maintenance?

Easy. We suggest using CND Solar oil at least 2 x day. This not only keeps your nails and skin around your nails conditioned but it actually beneficial for the Shellac. It plasticizes the product preventing it from chipping and peeling. Take care of your nails in the meantime. Treat them as if you have polish on them and they will last. Shellac is stronger than polish but it’s not indestructible. Don’t peel labels with your nails and don’t use them as tools.

How is Shellac removed?

Well, for sure not by peeling it or chewing it off (gross, I know, but we’ve seen it). That will surely damage your nails. We suggest booking a follow-up appointment 2 weeks after. We then wrap your nails with cotton soaked in special remover and foil. We then leave the wraps on for 10 minutes. After that, the Shellac crumbles off with ease. We gently push it off and remove some leftover pieces with a pad soaked in remover. You are then ready for your manicure and another Shellac application.

Does Shellac damage the nails?

The most damage can be caused by improper, rushed removal. Often, the removal looks the same as what we do… but it’s not.  When you get your Shellac removed by us, you will agree.

Another mistake is when clients peel off the product. Yes, that’s another sure way of damaging your nails. The product is bonded to your nails, forcing it off will pull layers off.

From my experience when Shellac is worn for too long (more than 2 weeks at the time) can cause surface damage (white spots), just like nail polish worn for too long on your toenails causes white spots on the toenails. Using cuticle oil (also on the Shellac itself) helps to prevent the white spots (surface damage) by (I assume) keeping the product flexible.

In my honest opinion, any product bonded to the nail can have some effect on it. Just like a hair color does have an effect on the hair. The effect depends on the type of your natural nails. Thin, brittle nails can experience more side effects than healthy, thick nails. It also depends on home care. We put our hands through a lot. Can you imagine washing beautifully coloured hair with dish detergent and soap multiple times a day? You would expect damage! Interestingly when people colour their hair usually they buy special, gentle shampoos and special serums and conditioners. When they get their nails done they are happy that they can abuse them (trust me, many of our clients confess how they use them as tools).

Just remember, the rougher you are on your hands, the more pressure you are putting on that microscopic, chemical bond that is created between the natural nail and product bonded to it. You pull it long enough and yes, you will experience surface damage. The “stronger” the product and the stronger the “bond” the more risk the product can cause.

By | 2020-07-03T01:12:10+00:00 January 23rd, 2016|Polished|

About the Author:

Anna Lajourdie is a world-renowned nail technician, international educator, and competition winner. She has been featured and published in an array of magazines (Beauty Cosmedica, Nailpro, Scratch, and Nails Magazine---to name a few). In addition to working with her valued clients at Polished, Anna works closely with top industry distributors and travels to beauty shows in Singapore, Poland, Spain, Germany, the US, and Malaysia to host workshops and classes, and judge nail competitions.